NEW YORK — It won’t be as dramatic as the Millennium Falcon swooping in to let Luke have his shot at the Death Star. But there is some back-up on the way for a Red Sox team closing in on baseball’s Evil Empire.
The biggest piece, David Price, is already back.
Carson Smith, one of two missing right-handers with high-leverage experience, might be one more mound appearance away from a minor league rehab assignment. He threw off a major league mound Wednesday with hitters standing in, the first time he’s done that since Tommy John surgery. But no one took any swings, so he still hasn’t faced live hitting. That might happen Saturday at Fenway Park, when his next scheduled mound outing is.
Smith’s felt his shoulder bark a little as he’s rehabbed his elbow, but seemed very happy after Wednesday’s outing.
"They all felt good,” Smith said of his pitches. “Fastball location was good. I don't know the velocity but everybody that I talked to, players, coaches, the rest of the staff, they all said it was coming out good. Slider felt good, changeup as well, so everything was good.”
Smith’s return should help with workload distribution. Tyler Thornburg is still throwing from out to 90 feet and has yet to make his Red Sox debut. Robbie Ross Jr. isn’t throwing as he recovers from a forearm injury.
“Am I afraid the bullpen will be overused? No, I’m not,” Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday. “That’ll be dependent on how consistent our rotation goes into ball games and pitches quality innings. That will always be a main contributor to success of a bullpen.”
Enter Brian Johnson, who has been the expected starter in place of Eduardo Rodriguez on Friday and on Wednesday was announced as such. The lefty’s last outing in the big leagues was essentially a dream, a complete-game shutout, and now the question is whether he can give the Sox anything consistent in Rodriguez’s absence.
“If he keeps throwing shutouts it’ll be great,” Farrell said. “Brian comes to us with a little momentum and confidence after the game against Seattle. He’ll be there Friday night.”